By Drew Griffin: Much is being and has been written on marriage of late. As society shifts and culture grapples with the complexities of modern sexuality, marriage has often been in the focus. And while forces on the right and left contend over the language and legitimacy of marriage there is a third front to this battle which we would be loath to overlook. This third group is not arguing over the shape of marriage, they’re questioning the need for marriage altogether. There is nothing new about this line of reasoning, cohabitation is and has been on the rise for some time. Of late, the subject was even the focus of the a London University Union Society Debate. Some, in this day and age who are pondering marriage as an option, might legitimately ask, ‘If the meaning of marriage has changed, then why should we get ‘married’?’ ‘If marriage is nothing more than the legal recognition of modern love relationships, regardless of their form or traditional understanding, then why should we bother with legalities when our love is so strong.”
Recently, this debate was given fuel and fodder by House Minority Leader and long-time gay marriage advocate Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi was asked about the topic of marriage, and her response was lackluster at best. Pelosi, who has been married for 50 years, had this to say,
“Meh’… Why would you get married? Why would anyone get married? In that person that they love so much that was irresistible, that they had to get married?” She added, “ I’m not a big one for rushing people into marriage as wonderful as mine was.”
Leaving the lack of logic and irony in her last statement for another day, let’s ponder the previous question she articulated. Why would, moreover why should anyone get married? Scripture is in no way neutral on the topic of marriage. Marriage is woven into the tapestry of biblical witness from Genesis to Revelation and provides a buttress to civilization and backdrop to God’s glorious plan of redemption. While numerous arguments to get married could be drawn from scripture, our effort here will be to focus on seven reasons, some from me and some from others; reasons that are both theologically applicable and practically relatable.
One, We were made for community. Marriage is an essential reflection of our divine sociology. The Bible begins with the silence and solitude of the triune God. “In the beginning, God…” The story begins there but it does not end there. As God spoke into that silence worlds sprang forth, stars commenced to shine, and creatures populated the earth. From the very beginning mankind was formed as the ultimate expression of God’s creation. But man was not created to be alone. God is a social being, so man created in His image must reflect that social character. Of all the ‘goods’ stated by God throughout his process of creation, none equaled the ‘very good’ creation of man together with woman. What God determined as ‘not good’ was that man was alone. Marriage is the first social human institution seen in scripture, as Adam and Eve serve as the paradigm for future communions joined in God’s sight, to love one another and be unified physically and spiritually, leaving their parents and joining together. (Genesis 2:24)
Two, We were created to re-create. Part of being created in the image of God means that we should reflect his creativity. This creativity is mirrored in almost every facet of our lives, from art and style to music and architecture. But this creativity is at its greatest expression when husband and wife join together and create a new life. We who were fearfully and wonderfully created out of love, in the image of Another, come together in an act of love and make someone in our own image. We have been given an ownership interest in creation, and a mandate to procreate and fill the earth. The Bible bears witness that this is to be done by a heterosexual couple joined together in marriage.
Three, Marriage reflects the Glory of God: We are all created and placed on this earth to glorify God, in our actions, in our beings, in everything that we do. John Piper has written that marriage, “exists to magnify the truth and worth and beauty and greatness of God. Not the way a microscope magnifies, but the way a telescope magnifies. Microscopes magnify by making tiny things look bigger than they are. Telescopes magnify by making unimaginably big things look like what they really are. Microscopes move the appearance of size away from reality. Telescopes move the appearance of size toward reality. When I say that all things exist to magnify the truth and worth and beauty and greatness of God, I mean that all things — and marriage in particular — exist to move the appearance of God in people’s minds toward Reality.”
Four, Marriage is Freeing: We were all created to be free. Timothy Keller has often drawn attention to the fact that there is a freedom to be found in the self-denial and self-sacrifice of marriage. Freedom through obligation might sound like an impossible modern day paradox, but it is not, as he writes, “The culture says you have to be free from any obligation to really be free. The modern view of freedom is freedom from. It’s negative: freedom from any obligation, freedom from anybody telling me how I have to live my life. The biblical view is a richer view of freedom. It’s the freedom of—the freedom of joy, the freedom of realizing what I was designed to be.”
Five, Marriage is Sanctifying: We were all created to be holy, for He who calls us is holy. One of the first things you learn when you get married is that you are far less perfect than you once thought you were. There is something that happens when you live in close proximity to someone else; opening your life up to them day in and day out, you begin to understand your weaknesses and strengths in a new light. Marriage gives us a context to understand Christlike sacrifice and service that no other relationship can provide. This is illustrated by Paul in Ephesians 5, Christ’s life and sacrifice serves to cleanse and sanctify His bride the church. The church in response submits to Christ as Lord. This relationship is mutually beneficial, the bride is made new and Christ receives his due glory. Likewise marriage between a man and a woman calls them both to a higher level of service, submission and sacrifice than they could ever experience alone. In this way, marriage serves to sanctify us and make us more like Christ.
Six, Marriage is essential for a healthy society and culture: We are called to be salt and light in a bland and dark world. Relationships do not occur in a vacuum. Every individual’s life impinges and affects the lives of those around them. Their choices and decisions have consequences beyond their own person. If you choose to ‘sleep around’, that will have an affect both on you and those you randomly intersect. If you choose to live together without getting married, there will be societal repercussions. Your decisions regarding relationships affect your families, your neighbors, your children, and often your children’s children. There is a code divinely written into all of creation, which forms and informs our conscience, and places limits and consequences to actions regardless of culture. (Romans 1:19-20) Heterosexual marriage, by its very nature, is an inherently stabilizing force on society and culture. Individuals that make commitments to one another, commitments which are intended to be life-long and irrespective of condition, generally apply increased commitment to other areas of life. These are the strands of responsibility that thread their way through society and serve to stabilize it.
Seven, Marriage is Fun: Contrary to current public opinion, the Bible affirms and celebrates joy, happiness, intimacy and sex. Entire passages of Scripture are devoted to celebrating the enjoyment of married heterosexual couples in the physical as well as emotional aspects of their relationship. Marriage is a gracious gift of God in that He provides a way for us to join together in a union that far exceeds physicality. Marriage is the means to enjoy fully another human being, to graft yourself into them and realize the great potential of love encumbered by guilt. You become alike in ways you never thought possible and you learn to celebrate the ways in which you are different. You will hurt when they hurt, cry when they cry, laugh when they laugh, and a part of you will die should they die. But through it all there is immense joy that beckon’s you to jump in and enjoy to the glory of God. ___________________________________________________________________________________________ Drew Griffin is the Lead Pastor/church planter of Cross Church NYC in Manhattan, NY. He is a M.Div. graduate of Southern Seminary. He and his wife Emily are missionaries with the North American Mission Board of the SBC, and Drew serves as associate director of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Extension Center in NYC. Drew, Emily, their daughter Charlotte, and dog Griffie reside in Brooklyn, NY. crosschurchnyc.com , @DG_NYC
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